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DainW

Planning a smallmouth trip, need advice

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Okay so I’m planning an ozark smallmouth trip for Memorial Day weekend. I know, it’s going to be a crazy weekend since it officially kicks off the float season for the party crowd. But hey you gotta fish when you can get away from work. 

Anyway I was looking for some advice on a good area to plan to fish? I picked up chuck tryon’s book on the advice of another member (thanks Al), and it’s been a really valuable source of information for me. That being said, it tends to be a lot of raw information, with very little input on how the fishing is at some of the creeks/rivers. I’ve kind of made a game of trying to read between the lines in the way he describes some bodies of water as to what the fishing is like. It’s led me to discover some nice water, like some of the accesses and tributaries on the upper gasconade for example, but I’ve also struck out a few times as well. 

Not asking for specific spots or even specific rivers necessarily, just a nudge in the right direction, say maybe a particular basin to check out? I know a lot of it is trial and error and that the way it’s supposed to be, but I only get so many opportunities each year to smallmouth fish in Missouri and when it’s a 5-7 hour drive from okc depending on where you’re going, you hope that you don’t strike out too bad. Anyways, if it helps, I will be primarily wade fishing and really just want to get into some fish. Would also like to be away from the crowds if possible. 

Any suggestions welcome. 

Thanks,

Dain

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The problem with Memorial Day weekend is that you not only have to contend with the party and splash 'n' giggle holiday crowds, but you also have the meat fishermen who have waited all spring to be able to keep a bunch of bass.  So while the former tends to congregate on the popular and well-known streams, the latter are usually locals who pound the wading creeks and less well known streams.  So if you're primarily wanting to wade and fish, you can immediately cross off any stream big enough to have one or more canoe rental places on it.  Then, I'd just pick a stream from Chuck's book that has several accesses in a row, well above the popular parts that have the canoe rentals.  Start by driving to the lowest access that's above the stretches served by the canoe rentals VERY early in the morning.  If there are already cars parked there, try the next access upstream.  Keep going until you find the access with the least vehicles.  Hopefully, if you are on the stream at daybreak, you'll be ahead of the others and find at least temporary solitude, and by the time others show up, you'll be well away from the access and happily fishing.  

As for WHICH stream to pick, it really shouldn't matter all that much.  Most Ozark headwater streams have somewhat similar bass populations.

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Thanks for the quick reply Al. 

It is what it is with timing for the trip. When you drive 5 or 6 hours, it needs to be at least a couple days worth of fishing. I don’t get a lot of time away from work so if I can structure trips around holiday time, it’s always good. I realize memorial weekend is going to be tough on the timing. I wish I lived closer and I could spend more time putting in the work finding a couple some reliable water. If got a couple creeks in NW OK that I know really well and get to fish more often, but it sometimes get boring fishing the same river over and over again. 

Anyways, if I’m understanding you correctly, it sounds like my best bet is going to be focusing on the headwaters of larger rivers rather than smaller tributaries as those will tend to get hit harder by the locals? 

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No, not necessarily.  Any stream section that's a bit too small for the canoe rentals to operate, whether a tributary or the headwaters of a larger river, will be pretty similar.  The key for me would be to pick a stream, or an area with several streams, where you have a choice of several different accesses.  

Keep in mind that when you start exploring headwaters and smaller streams, you may run afoul of landowners.  If the stream is actually large enough for canoeing at least part of the year but not big enough to support a canoe rental business, you shouldn't have any trouble, though there are always a few landowners who wish to give everybody grief, and a holiday weekend might bring them out.  You also can't depend upon the info on the usability of all the accesses in Chuck's book, because things have changed since he wrote it in many areas.  As you check out accesses, note whether they look well-used, there is adequate parking, and there's a lack of purple paint and keep out signs.  If it doesn't look like the access is used much or at all, there's probably a good reason.

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1 hour ago, Al Agnew said:

If it doesn't look like the access is used much or at all, there's probably a good reason to give it a shot

Just take Chuck's book and present it to the prosecutor.  Tell them you wouldn't have been there.... but this HIGHLY RESPECTED guy published a book saying it was a potential access.  They'll probably throw your summons out of court.   

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14 minutes ago, fishinwrench said:

Just take Chuck's book and present it to the prosecutor.  Tell them you wouldn't have been there.... but this HIGHLY RESPECTED guy published a book saying it was a potential access.  They'll probably throw your summons out of court.   

LOL... i waded a section of the osage fork last summer and didn’t realize it at the time but could’ve had a run in with the “Evergreen police.”

I realized then that some of the information in that book may be a little out dated and have been a little more cautious since then. I also checked some old posts and that landowner is pretty notorious for running people off. I didn’t have any trouble that day luckily. 

Al as far as what you recommended that’s more or less what we’ve been doing. Exploited the upper gasconade last summer (same trip) and had some good success. Not so much on the upper jacks fork and big piney but it was later in the year and would’ve been better served   In a canoe or kayak.

Guess I’m just gonna have to do some homework between now and then. 

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You’ll catch more and bigger fish in Missouri if you get your wade fishing thing out of your head. Looks good in magazines and the romanticism of wading knee deep in flowing waters teaming with untouched fish is compelling. 

The reality is so so different. 

Come to Missouri and float and fish. So much better and a more practical use of your time and money.

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there are streams you can wade fish that get little pressure, do your homework and avoid the famous ones...just saying 

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5 hours ago, joeD said:

You’ll catch more and bigger fish in Missouri if you get your wade fishing thing out of your head. Looks good in magazines and the romanticism of wading knee deep in flowing waters teaming with untouched fish is compelling. 

The reality is so so different. 

Come to Missouri and float and fish. So much better and a more practical use of your time and money.

Joe agree with that 100%. The ability to cover 8-12 miles of water in a day vs. 2 miles of water in a day is a big advantage. The wade fishing thing is really out of necessity more than anything though. Just got married last year and bought a new house a few months ago. The house we were in, the garage was barely big enough to fit both cars let alone a kayak or canoe. Now I’ve got space to store one anyway. Next step would be purchasing a vehicle capable of pulling one around. Probably not hauling a kayak around in my volkswagen. 

 

Since I don’t have my own watercraft, if I’m renting from an outfitter, I’m generally going to be limited to the more popular streams that have outfitters serving them and depending on water conditions, I’m also going to be limited to sections of those streams that the outfitters want to put you on. For example, last year I really wanted to float the upper jacks fork in September. I called a couple outfitters and nobody was willing to put me on that stretch. So I decided to just drive up and wade fish it  I fished 2 or 3 accesses but at each one would reach a point where I couldn’t really wade any farther, water would be too deep to wade in the stream and nowhere on the bank to walk  Had to turn around before we even got far enough from the access or fishing to get good. Plenty of people putting their own boats on the water though  

Anyway, said all that to say I agree with you basically. Buying a canoe or kayak is just an investment that I haven’t made quite yet  

 

 

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5 hours ago, DainW said:

Joe agree with that 100%. The ability to cover 8-12 miles of water in a day vs. 2 miles of water in a day is a big advantage. The wade fishing thing is really out of necessity more than anything though. Just got married last year and bought a new house a few months ago. The house we were in, the garage was barely big enough to fit both cars let alone a kayak or canoe. Now I’ve got space to store one anyway. Next step would be purchasing a vehicle capable of pulling one around. Probably not hauling a kayak around in my volkswagen. 

 

Since I don’t have my own watercraft, if I’m renting from an outfitter, I’m generally going to be limited to the more popular streams that have outfitters serving them and depending on water conditions, I’m also going to be limited to sections of those streams that the outfitters want to put you on. For example, last year I really wanted to float the upper jacks fork in September. I called a couple outfitters and nobody was willing to put me on that stretch. So I decided to just drive up and wade fish it  I fished 2 or 3 accesses but at each one would reach a point where I couldn’t really wade any farther, water would be too deep to wade in the stream and nowhere on the bank to walk  Had to turn around before we even got far enough from the access or fishing to get good. Plenty of people putting their own boats on the water though  

Anyway, said all that to say I agree with you basically. Buying a canoe or kayak is just an investment that I haven’t made quite yet  

 

 

A couple things to think about:

1) Many garages have a lot of wasted storage space on the ceiling where a kayak or canoe could be hung. 

2) Inflatable kayaks can be great wade fishing tools to get you across those deep pools. 

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